Volume IV, Number 13. 15 July 2022.

After the dubious ‘electoral victory’ of Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was officially declared the successor of Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Republic of the Philippines.

Marcos Jr. justified his taking the helm at the Department of Agriculture, “because of the severity of the food security problem.” He vowed to secure the country’s food supply chain, which has been affected by “outside forces” such as the Ukraine-Russia war. In solving the crisis, Marcos Jr. declared to pursue the policies of his predecessors and comply with international commitments.

The problems resulting from the armed conflict in Ukraine merely aggravates the crisis of Philippines agriculture. The crisis is in fact systemic, intrinsic to a backward, pre-industrial agricultural economy.

Under the WTO regime, the country’s commitment to reduce tariffs has resulted to the free entry of all agricultural products. This simply made the local market a dumping ground for cheap and heavily subsidized agricultural surpluses from other countries.

Prior to joining the WTO, the country’s annual agricultural trade was most often in surplus. The last time agricultural trade was in surplus was in 1993. Since joining the WTO in 1995, agricultural trade went into deficit, growing from US$149 million in 1995 to $960 million in 2005 to a whopping $7,867 billion in 2019.

The 2018 Rice Tariffication Law RTL removed quantitative restrictions on rice importation and replacing it with tariffs. This opened the floodgates to the unbridled importation of cheap heavily subsidized rice, destroying local production and deepening the country’s dependence on imported staple food.

While Marcos Jr. brags about the ‘economic progress’ achieved during his late father’s dictatorial rule, it is essential to highlight that Presidential Decree 27, the fake land reform program, supposedly the cornerstone of Marcos Sr.’s New Society, was a colossal failure.

PD27 exempted vast agricultural lands from land reform. It covered only tenanted rice and corn lands and even allowed a seven-hectare retention limit. It effectively exempted from land reform coverage some 55% of Filipino tenant-farmers and 44% of the total rice and corn lands.

The inherent defects of PD27 and the succeeding fake land reform legislations of the last four decades fail miserably to address the landlessness of the peasant masses for which they were professedly enacted to resolve! All these ‘land reform’ programs failed to break up the monopoly of big landlords and foreign agro-corporations over vast tracts of lands, to the detriment of the millions of landless peasants, and at the expense of genuine national economic development.

From 1972 to June 2021, the Department of Agrarian Reform DAR acquired and covered only 4,840,981 hectares of agricultural land, leaving vast private agricultural lands in the hands of big landowners and foreign plantations. Meanwhile, the unbridled conversion of prime agricultural lands into commercial and industrial uses damage local production.

Additionally, the Manila government’s total war policy and terrorist operations against peasants and indigenous peoples defending their rights to the land, aggravates even more the misery of the land tillers.

Only a radical shift from the present neoliberal policies towards policies of genuine land reform, agriculture modernization and national industrialization will enable the country to achieve food sovereignty and self-sufficiency.